By David Hunter
Circuito De Navarra – Bilbao 171.4km
A tough day in the Basque Country.
I love the final 40km, it’s classic Basque Country. The opening 130km is actually very easy, a day where the break can be easily controlled, as long as a team has the will to do so. Once into the finale, we hit the series of lumps.
First up is 1.9km at 10.8%. This is the point where a lot of riders will grab their ticket for the bus. A short descent follows, before the longest climb of the finale.
4km at 7.7%, and it’s only a cat 3 climb. I love the Basque Country! This time a longer descent follows, before the final climb of the day.
1.9km at 12%, with lots of sections way above the average. This is an absolute leg breaker of a climb, which crests with under 7km to go. There is every chance of rider going solo and not coming back.
Quite a few twists and turns, which is great for any solo attacker.
It’s going to be a wet one. That’s going to make the bunch a little nervous.
This is a day that can be controlled. The flat start means a strong team can ensure a small group get up the road, then everyone can relax. The pressure will be on Movistar, as Valverde will love the climbs at the end of the stage. The problem is that the Spaniards rarely chase all day. We’ll have to wait and see the attitude of the bunch.
Alejandro Valverde – if there was ever a stage made for Valverde, this is it. We have three steep climbs, which is exactly his style, and a flat finish. The world champion will be putting his hand up in the team meeting and demanding his team work on the front. After a number of breakaway wins, Movistar have to control of this day and deliver Valverde into the perfect position. He’ll be a little worried about the speed of Higuita’s sprint, but I reckon Valverde will be confident of dropping him on the final climb.
Sergio Higuita – if the pace on the final climb is full gas, I think he’ll get dropped. Make no mistake, I’m a big fan of the Colombian, but we are in the middle of his first grand tour, and his legs will be starting to feel a little heavy.
Primož Roglič – why not? He is a rider who has performed very well in the Tour of the Basque Country, he won’t be afraid of the climbs. Roglič is in the great position of simply having to follow wheels, he doesn’t need to attack. If he can stay with the attacks, he has a very fast sprint finish.
Omar Fraile – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Óscar Rodríguez – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Ruben Guerreiro – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Movistar have to control this one, they simply have to. A glorious day in the Basque Country for Alejandro Valverde.
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